Before beginning the program, it is important to stop and observe the cafeteria environment and students' lunchtime experience in order to identify what's 'right' as well as what might need to be modified in order to make improvements. Every school and even grade level within a school might have different challenges and needs.
Action step: This observation can be completed in a short amount of time (~20 min.) by a skilled occupational therapist or other school personnel who have the ability to tune into the physical, social-emotional, and sensory aspects of the environment – each of which can influence the lunch experience in a positive or negative way.
The Cafeteria Environmental Scan involves observing the physical (layout, seating), sensory (auditory, visual, movement, an olfactory) and social-emotional aspects of the cafeteria experience. Determine whether there are characteristics of the existing cafeteria environment that contribute to successful participation and enjoyment for all students. Determine what might limit participation and enjoyment. Consider what may need to be modified or changed both in terms of procedures (i.e. transitioning out of cafeteria after disposing of trash) as well as environmental modifications (noise level, table arrangements, etc).
Summarize observations. Think about strategies for improvement.